THE RAT’s top 25 Science Fiction movies

This is another list of movies to see what comes up. This time we’ll be taking a look at the best sci-fi movies. As with all lists the rank is not top to bottom they are numbered for sorting purposes only. Let’s get started.

1. Star Wars

You can call it space opera, space fantasy or whatever you want it’s still science fiction even if only on the surface. Easily one of the greatest films of all time and definitely a movie all sci-fi fans need to experience.

2. Star Trek II The Wrath of Kahn

Not the only good Star Trek movie but certainly the best. It has everything you’d want from a science fiction movie and it still holds up well today.

3. Sphere

In some ways this could be considered a thriller. Either way it’s still a great movie all the way around.

4. Alien

It’s a slasher movie. It’s a thriller. It’s a horror movie and it’s a sci-fi masterpiece. What more do you want?

5. Jurassic Park

Some would claim its more of a monster movie, which it is, than pure sci-fi but what are you going to do it has Dinosaurs and retro computers.

6. The Matrix

If you make a list of the best sci-fi movies and you leave the Matrix off then you failed. This is probably the most sci-fi of all the movies on this list.

7. Inception

More known for being a mind trip, and it does rely heavily on a pseudo-science rather than hard science, it still counts.

8. Back to the Future

Sure it’s really a comedy  but it’s also a sci-fi comedy and by far the best time travel movie around.

9. The Terminator

Often overlooked because of its action-movie sequel, this one is pure science fiction at its best. Also the special effects still give me chills.

10. Starship Troopers

This movie wins on so many levels. The action. The violence. The spaceships. The naked people. A+ Sci-fi film right here.

11. Total Recall

One of the best movies Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in. Similar to Inception and The Matrix in a lot of ways but still pretty damn cool.

12. Robocop

Part robot. Part cop. All bitching kick ass action sci-fi roller coaster.

13.  Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s probably the only MCU film that counts as legit sci-fi rather than superhero fluff. Also it just rocks.

14. Aeon Flux

Some will say it’s a bad movie. I say give it another shot.

15. TMNT

The original. It’s campy but it’s still pretty interesting.

16. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Visually stunning. Classic premise. Superb story telling.

17. Batteries Not Included

Cute, endearing and fun at the same time.

18. The Fifth Element

Must watch film. Beautiful special effects. Funny and solid action flick with interesting plot.

19. Men in Black

The actual good sci-fi movie Will Smith was in.

20. The Time Machine

The original. Very solid film. Very iconic. Very thought provoking.

21. Planet of the Apes

The twist ending alone makes it worth it.

22. Star Trek First Contact

I tried to keep it to one film per franchise but this movie absolutely belongs on the list.

23. Superman

The original superhero comic book movie and still a fantastic sci-fi adventure.

24. Demolition Man

Cheesy, yes and still light years ahead of the competition.

25. Independence Day

By far the best flying saucer movie ever made.

Why the Death Star is actually pretty cool

From a military stand point the Star Wars universe is very much a the guy with the bigger gun makes the rules kind of place. While the expanded universe, including the now deleted legacy stuff, depicted a vast history spanning thousands of years, what we see in the films paints a picture of a militaristic society struggling to shed its industrialist ways and return to a simpler time.

Throw that narrative out the window and prepare to be amazed. I won’t go into the Imperialist sympathizer mentality some would argue. Palpatine was not a benevolent leader protecting the Empire from an evil alien invasion as some fringe corners of the interwebs might have you to believe.

As an industrialist, pro-capitalism, techie science nerd I can say the idea of a giant, indestructible fortress of metal housing a giant death ray sounds pretty cool. The imagery of the super weapon is also appealing. In a way it kind of looks like a giant menacing robot eyeball in space.  As a setting for a space fantasy it’s damn near perfect. It builds tension for the heroes as the looming dread of ultimate annihilation approaches. Even in that final tactical meeting where the Rebel forces basically come to terms with the suicide mission they are embarking upon the reality sinks in. The pilots know they can either stay on the planet and get blown to atoms or face certain death in an attack that literally makes no logical sense all the way around.

The whole idea of a super weapon that has the power to frighten  the imperial subjects into total submission is more than a plot point, it is the very glue that holds the entire Star Wars saga together. From a tactical perspective it doesn’t need to make sense because it works as a story element.

Star Wars has been regarded by a lot of film different people over the years as the  greatest film of all time, or at least one of the greatest by most accounts. It is absolutely a cultural phenomenon at the very least. I would argue that the Death Star itself is as much a character of the film as Darth Vader and even more crucial to its success than the entire Jedi mythology.

The Death Star represents mans ultimate achievement, using science and technology to tame the natural world. Being able to control the elements even on a global scale is impressive enough. Then we see the Galactic Empire showing our imaginations a society that has also tamed the wild vastness of space itself. Even the science-grounded Star Trek shows us an untamed space that cannot be explained. The reason Star Wars continues to capture our imaginations to this day is because the first film had the balls to make the focus of the movie a Cold War era nightmare extrapolated to the extreme. Humans of the era were under constant threat of mutually assured destruction during the time the film was released. Humanity had created a series of weapons that if unleashed had the capability to render the Earth a lifeless rock. Here comes a weapon that can not only take out all life on a planet, but can actually destroy an entire planet in a single instant. Images of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima fresh on everyone’s minds, the scene where Alderaan is blown to molecules resonated with our own fears.

Everyone from the kid in grade school to the college student writing a thesis for their professor down to the nerdy blogger on the internet, has written about Star Wars in some form or another.

While there are ways to analyze the film from a political science perspective, to seeing it as a study in mythology, to a warning of the dangers of industrialization, every angle has been explored. Even as I sit here trying to think of why the Death Star is so damn cool all I can think to say is it’s the best explanation I have for why the film works so well.

There is so much going on in Star Wars yet most of the truly iconic moments and quoteably memorable lines are taken from scenes that happened on the Death Star. The most iconic line from the movie even “May the Force be With you” was said on the battle ship and directed towards it in that briefing room scene.

The sight of a giant metallic ball of death moving into orbit is more than enough to give everyone chills. Even the sense of relief the heroes have at the films conclusions is more than a simple battle field victory over a technologically and militarily superior enemy. The symbolism of destroying the most powerful weapon of the Empire is enough to bolster the Rebels moral. The audience is left with a sense of wonder, awe and relief as the credits roll. We leave the galaxy far, far away knowing the legend of the farm boy, space pirate and princess who stop an evil giant ball of death will live on in the collective conscious of all who experience it.

While film and literary critics will argue the idea of the Death Star is over used or some contrivance of sorts they fail to recognize what it truly represents. On the surface it’s a plot device. Nothing more than the threat our heroes need to overcome. Yet it represents something larger than that. It is the idea of man developing a technology that can undo God’s creation. The idea that man can invent a technology that would elevate an creature no more significant than a flea in the  grand scheme of things to the single most important life form in existence. For that reason alone the idea of the Death Star transcends the films and is single-handedly responsible for propelling the Star Wars saga from the realm of a cult b movie to arguably one of the most successful and influential films to ever exist.

I believe that the Death Star is the most important element to the film, even more significant to its pop culture status than the characters themselves. And I am eternally grateful George Lucas had the artistic genius to design his movie around a concept that sticks with you. None of the films spectacular visual effects, fantastic story telling, lovable characters or rich back story work if you remove the single most important element from the films genetic makeup. The movie works simply because the Death Star works. Without it you just have the Wizard of Oz in space. And who wants to see that?

A political revelation regarding the Star Wars prequel trilogy

I have a confession to make. I am kind of a nerd when it comes to politics and government. I became a journalist because I truly am fascinated by the political process. Things like economic development, infrastructure investment, community engagement, police policy, parks and recreation and more just really do interest me. I enjoyed my time covering meetings and seeing the political process unfold. I covered elections, even interviewed in person Beto O’Rourke before he got famous.

Sure it’s easy to see with that background why I would be a staunch defender of The Phantom Menace in particular, that whole scene with the congress calling for a vote of no confidence in the chancellor really gets my brain juices flowing. But did you know that it’s actually because of Star Wars that I became so fascinated by politics in the first place? Well let me explain.

When I was a kid I loved reading books. I read  books well above my reading  grade. I was reading college level by 5th grade. I remember reading the novelization of Star Wars From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker repeatedly as a kid. Even though it was just a few hints here and there just reading about the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire got me curious as to what all those terms meant.

It was sometime in 5th grade when I started learning the basics of the U.S. system of government. The first time the teacher spelled out the three branches of the government a light  bulb turn on inside. Then I got really excited when I started learning about the Rebellions against the Empire that took place in our nations history. Once I started connecting the concepts I was learning in social studies to the terms I had read in my Star Wars books I became even more entrenched. I remember sitting at home watching C-Span and being mesmerized by the debates. I hadn’t formed my political alliances yet but I was enjoying learning how it all worked.

Once I started reading the Expanded Universe books I started having fantasies of being a governor of a small outer rim system trying to balance being subject to the empire but secretly supportive of the Rebellion. It even influenced my interest in Sim City and similar games as a way to enact political scenarios in my mind. I would even imagine I was a dignitary on a capital warship on a political envoy while I was working as a busser at a buffet inside the casino.

I had always attributed my interest in the prequels as a combination of my love for the EU, my own interest in politics and being the right age when Episode I came out that I just fell in love with a movie others happened to hate.

It never occurred to me that the reason I enjoyed the movies with the most politics in them isn’t just because I was into politics, but it was because it was the very franchise itself that sparked my original interest in the field in the first place.

Why am I writing this now, today? Because of the connection with the 4th of July. You see I am a day dreamer of course. You don’t get to be a very good writer/storyteller if you aren’t. So I used to always lay in bed imagining that I was on a planet in the Star Wars  universe in a heated battle between Imperial and Rebel forces every Independence Day. The sound of the fireworks and the way they lit up the night sky was the perfect sensory enhancement to maintain that illusion. To this day I can’t do anything on the 4th without thinking of Star Wars. Not to mention the way my brain associates Star Wars with the Will Smith film ID4. It all kind of goes together for me.

This Fourth of July I am hoping to celebrate with my own re-watching of the two Star Wars films I associate the most with the holiday, the original A New Hope and of course, the Phantom Menace. I missed May 4th but there’s no reason you can’t have a May the Fourth be With You on the Fourth of July, is there? #StayCool.

Gremlins- Re-imagined?

This time, it’s personal. A oft uttered phrase in trailers selling a movie sequel. I can’t remember how many 80’s movies used that tagline somewhere in their sequel marketing. The words ring in your ear when the deep voiced announcer utters it, usually imposed over the top of a frame of the film signalling the anger and frustration the protagonist is going to experience in the film.

The Gremlins franchise is one of those are iconic 80’s movies that almost became a full on franchise, yet somehow stopped after just two films. All the ingredients were there. They had video games, toys, the premise was perfect it could have easily spawned a Saturday morning cartoon and comic book. Instead we got more Killer Tomatoes the world could ever need and were left with just two entries in the Gremlins saga. Even Ghostbusters managed to get two Saturday morning cartoons in the form of The Real Ghostbusters and later Extreme Ghostbusters. Then, why were the Gremlins unable to follow suit? Much like Ghostbusters the movies blended horror and comedy perfectly in such a way they appealed to horror fans but were accessible to children and general audiences. It worked well enough but never took off. Then you have hard R rated gore fests like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or even Hellraiser continue on for decades after.

I contend the downfall of the Gremlins was two fold. The first attack on the franchise came in the aforementioned R rated horror genres. Critters satisfied the needs of sci-fi and horror fans looking to get their fix of cute monsters running amok. This didn’t leave much room in the hearts of cinema goers as the countless knock offs abounded, most did take the premise to deep into the R rated territory Gremlins was careful to avoid.

A darker, scarier Gremlins might have had a chance of sticking around in the world as Horror fans are notoriously more loyal than the fickle minded children who’s attention spans drag them unwittingly into the very next fad. This takes me to the second reason Gremlins failed to catch on as a long term franchise. It wasn’t that it was too much of a kids movie, it just wasn’t kid-friendly enough to keep the interests of the young fans. Unlike horror films, whose audience is built in as teenagers don’t have care when a movie was made they go out of their way to consume all the media their watchful guardians protest, or better still, forbid. Gremlins never had that taboo of being forbidden, so teenagers didn’t see it as nearly ideal as Friday the 13th or Child’s Play.

The other issue is once it was on the scene you had Goonies, Monster Squad and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids filling the niche Gremlins would have. It wasn’t entirely the same as an ensemble cast of misfit kids, which is part of the problem. By the time Gremlins his the scene the misfit class was ruling the world and kids identified with it. We wanted to see more freaks like us, less boring old traditionalists like the ultra-conservative characters portrayed in the Gremlins films. Not conservative in the political sense mind you just, you know old fashioned and boring.

Monster Squad and Goonies had kids swearing. The hinted at, but shied away from, teenage sexuality. The Gremlins were too adult for kids and too kiddie for adults. As such teenagers had no use for the safe horror movie their parents watched with them at Christmas time and thus it was relegated to a holiday themed oddity more than elevated into the status of cultural icon it deserved.

It was a shame because a harder, grittier and even gory Gremlins franchise would have been enjoyable in the long run to horror fans, but a more kid friendly franchise would have fizzled out probably quicker than what we ended up with anyways.

The problem was, the horror market was overly saturated. Could it have sustained another long running gore centered franchise? If you look at the Child’s Play series you get a sense of the type of movie fans would have accepted in a gory Gremlins. Especially once you get to The Bride of Chucky, you see vestiges of the template a R rated horror Gremlins franchise would have sustained. The problem is the filmmakers took it to the wrong extreme at the wrong time. By watering the sequel down you had a more kid friendly movie parents could safely use to babysit their kids. But this watering down killed off the franchises hope for longevity. Sure, they could have bolstered it with a goofy Saturday morning cartoon, hell even Teen Wolf got this treatment, but it would have died in the 80’s like so many of those other one off cartoons based on adult movies targeted towards children.

The movie I picture is divorced from the Christmas setting. It has the same premise, a boy gets a cute, exotic pet for a birthday present or some other such occasion. Then it slowly begins to devolve into the mischief we see in the film, before the green monsters take it to the horror extreme. Death. Mayhem, decapitations and gore ensure. The movie has a similar tone and iconic imagery but it’s gorier, it’s scarier and there is a sense of immediacy, the Gremlins will go into hiding during, probably into the sewers, during the day to fester and wait for their opportunity to rise up and begin the killing spree again.

I picture a movie rebooting the franchise with a Hard R, plenty of gore and a character who doesn’t have a safe, boring job as a bank teller but is a comic artist who is struggling to pay bills working at some nothing job like the real people in that situation would have been, making him more relatable.

Here is the problem. It’s too late to reboot it as a gory, R rated franchise as too much time has passed. Nostalgia will dictate a movie that goes out of it’s way to recapture the magic of the 80’s while trying to appeal to a wider audience. In a world filled with super hero movies and special effects outings the stakes are much higher and this presents the problem of how to you make the Gremlins scary in today’s world? We have even more opportunities to shine bright light on the little creatures. Nevermind the fact the Critters franchise is, yet again, getting a new entry long after the vastly superior and far more entertaining Gremlins franchise has been put to rest.

The value of exploring religion in movies

The first thing I noticed when I was being raised in my Evangelical upbringing was how Hollywood always portrayed Christians as superstitious Catholics. This was used by some in my circle to prove the error of Catholicism by pointing out the “World” represented by Hollywood, only viewed Catholics as Christian thus proving Catholicism was born of the world, so to speak.

Recently I began watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. As a faithful Christian I have always struggled with TV shows and movies that glorify the occult. I have a strong ability to separate those things that are entertainment and those that are offensive with the intent to offend. I don’t enjoy politically biased documentaries for this reason. I prefer politically neutral documentaries that present the facts and allow the viewer to make up their own mind. For this reason when I see something like Sabrina I am torn. I enjoyed the original show tremendously and watched it regularly despite warnings from my ecclesiastically focused friends it was allegedly satanic. I dismissed many of their claims and went about watching the show.

This presents a problem for me. The new show is a whole lot more obvious in their devotion to “The Dark Lord” and makes claims that the Christian God is the “False God.” Even though it is a TV show, this does not sit well with me. Yet, I find myself going back and watching the show. Why?

This is where it gets complicated. I am not going to present this from a doctrinal or theological perspective, I will reserve that for the individual to make up their mind. Rather I am going to present what my view is on the role of religion within movies. I have come to accept the Hollywood portrayal of Catholics is as far from reality as their portrayal of Evangelicals. Thus I can conclude there is probably some similar exaggerations taking place in a show which features a clearly pagan religious perspective. For example, there are Wizards in Lord of the Rings. They are not pagan in the classical sense, meaning they don’t believe their power is sourced  by the pantheon of the gods. Rather, they believe their power comes directly from the energies of the universe. From the perspective of entertainment, that is the precepts contained in something like D&D or even Final Fantasy, there are distinctions between science, arcane magic and religious magic. There is tremendous overlap but from the context of the fantasy game set they are clearly distinct from one another.

This is where I stand on movies. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe I accept that the Asgardians are mortal beings in the material plane with access to and knowledge of manipulating the powers of the universe using what humans on Earth refer to as magic and thus they are worshiped as gods. They, the gods of Asgard, do not forbid or forsake the worship as gods they in fact welcome it despite knowing full well the reality is to the contrary. Still, I accept that within the context of the MCU the Asgardians are not gods, merely super heroes no different than the X-Men or Spider-Man. This is easy to accept.

From certain eschatological perspectives this is going to become a problem. I am not going to discuss those at this time. Rather I am going to preface this by saying I can accept that in the context of the MCU Thor is NOT a god, while in real-world Christianity he is akin to a false god, or even a demon depending on the Christian perspective.

This anything that is not Christian is pagan and anything that is pagan is satanic is often used to condemn basically anything a person could choose to do so.

Then why do I not give the same benefit of the doubt to Sabrina? For starters within the context of the show the Christian God is the villain. He is represented as a monster, a liar, and a false prophet. The Dark Lord, as they refer to him mostly, is glorified and in the context of the show, is the true god. This doesn’t sit well with me. But I can dig further.

In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise the Christian mythology is evoked equally with heathen religion. There are multiple instances of the Christian God being supreme while the heathen gods having power, an example would be the cursed gold from the first film. The movies remain ambiguous on which power is at play. There is a balance but since the films are set in a parallel film universe based on but not set in our physical universe I can accept that.  Basically it comes down to reverence for the Christian God.

There are scores of horror movies that have evil represented by the devil, or some spiritual force that could be a stand in for the Devil. This is acceptable to me because we, as Christians, accept the Devil as evil. The forces of Good are combating the forces of evil thus any allegory to that structure is permissible. I liken it to referencing the Slasher films as morality tales. I don’t have an issue with that.

Why, then, do I draw the line with Sabrina? Or rather, should I?

It comes down to personal preference alone. I use this example. I can enjoy the Omen, the Exorcist and even The Shining as works of literature. No problem. I go a step further and often proclaim my favorite film of all time as the horror movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. This is clearly something I cannot shy away from. But even in those instances there is no reference to the origin or source of the powers, be them evil or good. This ambiguity allows me to place the art or literature into it’s own category, in my view a movie universe parallel to our own with similar, but slightly modified laws of physics. This is how I can accept a film with an extra-terrestrial Superman flying around powered by the solar rays that give cancer to ordinary inhabitants of our planet.

At first I was able to compartmentalize Sabrina and place it in the same box. In this universe thus is so. However something didn’t sit well with me. In this universe MY God was not being given the respect and devotion he deserves but rather being proclaimed a false god. I have seen horror movies that take this same approach but they present it as such, the divide between Protestantism and Catholicism, in other words they usually have a form of religion, a symbol of a church, but because it is the “false church” their proponents don’t have the power of God thus they are often portrayed as false. For example Dracula and other Vampire movies. They borrow heavily from European myths mingled with superstition and Christianity. There are often Christian symbols, holy water and the Cross or crucifix depending on the portrayal, being used to defeat the vampires, or forces of evil.

As I examine this I pull it back and let this be the deciding factor for me, not based on an intellectual argument or even a theological argument. I base it on what I am comfortable with personally.

As I watch Sabrina I hear them exhaling Satan and demonizing My Lord, I feel a twinge of disgust. It doesn’t sit well with me. I am not going to make the claim it *IS* Satanic and thus forbid or implore anyone to not watch it. Rather I am going to state why *I* have decided it is too much for me and invite others to either defend it, with in reason and not using personal attacks or logical fallacy, or I would ask that in this case my views be respected and I not be expected to defend my point other than it makes me uncomfortable to watch so I am recusing myself from it, for the time being.

This is not to say I will apply this analysis to other works of literature or artistic expression. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere of what is acceptable and what is not. For me, I can accept a movie about a pedophile being condemned to hell and sentenced to invade the dreams of the relatives of those who judged him using illegitimate means. The basis is on the fact that neither Mans law (Justice) nor God (Church law) judged him accordingly, thus despite him being evil in life, his death was unjust opening the door for the spiritual forces in the context of that franchise to provide a middle ground. He remains in hell tormented for all eternity, but he is permitted to get revenge upon those who were also unjust in slaying him. It’s acceptable to my perspective because it fits the real of what is to be expected. God demands, in the real of Christianity, to adhere to mans laws as placed in jurisdiction over us. The exception is when those laws prevent a person from expressing their obedience to God’s commands. Thus, it is my perspective, based on purely my own understanding, that disobeying God’s law does not justify disobeying mans law. In other words, the parents who murder Fred Krueger are as guilty of the sin of murder as the man they killed. Rather, if the courts, appointed by man respected by God, permitted him to trial and he was sentenced to death, he would not be justified in returning to this world, either in physical or metaphysical form, he would be firmly condemned to Hell.

This is how I can accept A Nightmare on Elm Street without a twinge of strong guilt but, currently, cannot do the same for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Maybe upon further examination I will change my mind. At this point, and in the future, I will not ever condemn another for their choices. Watch the show if you find it acceptable, while I am going to currently refrain from such until further notice.

I didn’t want this to be entirely focused exclusively on Sabrina. After all there was a certain amount of nostalgia at play tugging me into the desire to see it. I also rather enjoyed the few episodes I did watch of it.

Best 80’s Trucker movie?

Here is the contest. Which of the following three 80’s films represent the truck driver spirit best? The films are Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone, Big Trouble in Little China starring Kurt Russell, and Maximum Overdrive starring Emilio Estevez.

Each of these three films presents a different aspect of the truck driver world. Big Trouble focuses on a loner truck driver making his way in the world. Maximum Overdrive centers on a group of survivors at a truck stop being attacked by possessed trucks. The last film, Over the Top, digs into some of the sub culture of the trucker lifestyle.

The great American road trip has been a staple in American culture ever since the beginning of time for this young nation of diverse people. Even before there were automobiles there was the famous wagon trains exploring the American frontier of years past. Also there are the lone riding cowboys who hit the dusty trails of the American wild west. All of these people have one thing in common, leaving their world behind to seek adventure on the open road.

The road trip movie is one of the most iconic sub-genres of the adventure film in American cinema, birthing such classics as Easy Rider, The Blues Brothers, Dumb & Dumber and Tommy Boy.

The truck driver culture, or truck stop culture, of the road trip is a great staple.

This is a look at three feature films each presenting a different aspect of the trucking/trucker culture. As someone who has several family members who either are, or were at one time, truckers or aspired to be truckers, this topic is one I have been holding onto for a while.

It’s going to be written in four parts. Following the reviewing of each movie with the focus on how well does it capture the trucker spirit, then a final review pulling the information from each film onto a final article deciding which of the three is the best trucker film.

This is going to be an ongoing series. It will require the re-watching and taking of notes for each film. Sit back and enjoy the sure to be bumpy ride.

Thoughts on X-Men Film Franchise from the perspective of a fan playing catch up

In the early 1990’s I was the exact right age to get sucked into the Fox X-Men Animated series. Needless to say I became a pretty big fan of the series. I bought toys, comics, video games and watched all the cartoons I could. I loved X-Men. Imagine my excitement when I am reading the latest issue of Wizard magazine and they are showing off images from the set of the upcoming live-action feature film starring my favorite mutants.

Throughout the years the X-Men have continued to star in nearly a dozen feature films following that first masterpiece from 2000. It was the perfect film to transition comic book movies from the dark days of the 90’s into the golden age of comic book movies were are experiencing today. I was still the right age to be excited for the movie when it released. I was 18 when it released and finishing up high school. I vividly remember going to the theater and then being so excited to see it again, and again. I couldn’t wait for the next film in the franchise.

Now nearly 20 years later there is a new X-Men themed hit tearing up the box office right now and another mutant fest right around the corner. I decided this was a good time to finally get caught up on the films. I watched Days of Future Past earlier today. This had been the last of the primary X-Films I hadn’t seen yet. It was a good thing I did because I actually had a great time watching this movie. It was a dream come true seeing the stories I used to be mesmerized as a child coming to life in a new medium.

Here is a breakdown of the X-Men films so far. I am not counting the Deadpool movies or Wolverine films. First, I haven’t even seen them yet, and second I am not really a fan. I will keep this to the primary X-Films until I can get around to watching the spin-offs.

X-Men

Looking back on it now I still think this was a brilliant way to kick off the franchise. While it does boast a modest budget and reasonable special effects, for the time, it’s clearly more focused on the story. The best part of the film is the casting. These actors easily bring my favorite comic book heroes to life in a manner that is consistent with my liking. The characters are the heart and soul of the X-Men and although they choose to center it on a very small cast, it’s a great selection of characters.

The action isn’t over the top like later films. I actually like this on repeat viewings. It doesn’t really seem tame as it does reigned in. The movie gives the characters a chance to breath while leaving enough to the imagination to build up to the next film. It’s obvious they were trying to repeat this pattern with the flawed Fantastic Four films, unfortunately in that case it didn’t quite resonate with audiences.

X-Men 2 (X2 X-Men United)

Removed from time this movie remains one of the all-time greatest super hero science fiction films ever produced. Even with all the modern spectacle of Avengers films, this movie continues to amaze me with the way it present the mutants powers. It’s not excessive like others in the series yet it is far more refined than the first. It’s obvious the first movie was used to test the waters while this movie was given the freedom to do what it needed.

Story wise it’s a direct continuation of the first movie. The characters have real heart and start to really come together as a team. By the end of the movie the stakes are real. The deaths are gut wrenching and the mood is somber. It perfectly sets up the third film in what was originally to be a trilogy.

X-Men 3 The Last Stand

I remember the anticipation for this movie was very high for me. I was heartbroken at the death of one of my two favorite X-Men characters in the previous film. I suspected she would return as Phoenix because that’s the way they did it in the source material. I wasn’t entirely on board with how it turned out but I still enjoyed this movie tremendously, considerably more than the vocal fanbase who has condemned it for reasons I have yet to determine.

X-Men The First Class

This movie came out around the same time as the first Wolverine movie. By this time super hero movies were in full swing and the X-Men were starting to get played out. This was the first of the series I didn’t see in theaters. It wasn’t because I had any problems with the prior film it was more the market was now saturated with big budget sci-fi spectacles and suddenly X-Men movies weren’t as interesting.

I did eventually see it years later. I thought it was pretty good. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first three films but I did enjoy it still. The character selection was a little odd. I would have preferred they stuck with characters I was more familiar with, I still liked the way the story unfolded. The new Mystique was also a pretty good choice in casting. By this time audiences had grown to expect more out of special effects so the use of the super powers increased significantly. I liked the movie but not as much as the others.

X-Men Days of Future Past

This was the last one I saw previews for and was actively excited for. The trouble was there had been so many new movie franchises rise to prominence by this time I was more into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I ended up skipping this movie. I finally got to see it today and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not in the film, it was fantastic. I was disappointed I let myself go this long without seeing this movie. In fact I enjoyed it so much I am starting to get excited for the next film in the series.

X-Men Apocalypse

This was the first dud in the franchise as far as I am concerned. By this time Disney was dominating with their MCU films. The story was fine, the characters were all right but the issue was in the execution. The movie felt a little bloated. It seemed to be the first movie to stray too far from the source material in terms of story for my liking.The movie was entertaining enough it just felt like they were trying too hard with the effects this time.

I have seen two of the three Wolverine movies. I haven’t seen The Wolverine yet and I also haven’t seen either of the Deadpool films yet so I will evaluate those at a later date.

Over all I still think the entire X-Men franchise has been consistently good. There have been a couple bumps in the road.

Ranking the Freddy vs. Jason movies: Part two the Jason movies.

The Spiders Lair ranks the Freddy vs. Jason franchise. This is part two, the Jason films.

Jason movies

Friday the 13th 2

I wish I could tell you I have some fond memory of discovering this movie as a child and how it shaped who I became, much like the Freddy movies did. No, I didn’t ever watch these movies when I was growing up. I saw part 3 and part 7 when I was a kid, the rest I discovered long after reaching adulthood.

That being said, I was able to go into these with the clarity of a new comer who lived through their first-run, but missed them entirely. That helped reduce the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. That’s why I think I was able to name part 2 as the best of the series. For me, it was the only truly scary movie in the series and the one that really defined the slasher summer movie genre.

The plot was basically just repeating the plot of the first movie but with a new set of kids. The only variation was the killer. It had some good jump scares but the gore was definitely yet to become a staple of the series. This one had the most believable characters, for the most part, and the final girl felt like she really deserved to survive not just because she happened to be cast in the role.

Fun fact: The head of Jason’s dead mother is used as a prop, and plot device in this movie tying it back into the first movie.

Friday the 13th

I ranked this one higher than my personal enjoyment of it. The reason, it’s a classic and it reminds me slightly of The Last House on the Left in tone more than the following films. Since I loved that movie I give this a pass. As far as scares go, it’s not that scary. It’s mostly pacing and jump scares, more atmosphere than anything. Much like Sleepaway Camp to follow, this movie relies heavily on the fake out of not revealing who the killer is. Now, to be fair, the twist at the end of that movie was a real twist and not a tacked on jump scare to justify a sequel.

Fun Fact: Kevin Bacon is one of the victims in this movie.

Friday the 13th 4

The Final Chapter. Right, just like The Final Nightmare was the last time we saw Freddy Krueger. For some reason this one jumps out at me as the most 80’s horror movie I have ever seen. This one has the great hair music, teenagers being actual teenagers, Corey Frigging Feldman, and hockey mask wearing Jason getting some visually stunning kills. Oh and hot twins.

Fun Fact: This was the first movie to feature a story arc that carried over to the following movies more than just the setting and Jason.

Friday the 13th 3

Now in 3D! Freddy waited all the way until his intended demise film to go 3D. Not Jason, they did it in the first movie to have what would become his iconic mask. It was the first one to stray from using an all orchestral soundtrack to a solid 80’s rock soundtrack, but it was for the better. The movie had much better special effects, likable characters and even a sub-plot involving side characters. It even had a flash back that implied Jason might have raped girl.

Fun Fact: The nerdy character in this movie drives around in a totally 80’s retro VW Beetle reminiscent of G1 Bumble Bee.

Friday the 13th 6

What I loved about this was the totally cheesy 80s camp was raised to the max. This and part 4 are about as 80s as you can get.

This movie has a plot more akin to a typical monster movie where the adults are in on the cover up  but don’t want to admit it. Or something like that. Also the introduction of Zombie Jason, who would become the staple of the franchise, and not for the best.

Fun Fact: Alice Cooper has a song in this movie and a couple years alter he plays the dad of Freddy Kruger.

Bonus fact: This movie continues the plot from 4 and 5 with the same Tommy character. I liked that, here. I didn’t in part 5.

Friday the 13th 5

I typically try to avoid ranking movies from best to worst following numerical order. Often times the movies do degrade progressively but sometimes you get an odd instance where a quality sequel will rise above the rest. This is one of those cases where part 5 sort of stands alone as the black sheep of the series. No small feat considering how many films stray from the formula.

I have a lot of things I really enjoy about this movie but it’s still not the best. I like the change in setting. I love how different it is in tone and kills. What does trip me up though is the fake out reveal at the end, and the crazy red-neck characters that seem to contribute nothing but a cheap joke. This was one of those I did see as a kid. Not the whole movie but I distinctly remember the kid that I thought was trying to look like Michael Jackson who got killed in the outhouse scene.

Fun Fact: The hot blond doing the break dancing moves in this movie is the daughter of the woman who played the English teacher in the original Nightmare on Elm Street.

Freddy vs. Jason

Yes, this is the breaking point. From here on the movies all go downhill. One of the biggest complaints this movie gets from fans of both franchise is it doesn’t seem to work well as a solid entry in either series. I happen to disagree. I think it works better as a Freddy movie than a Jason flick, considering the Freddy stuff stays very true to the mythology that came before and this movie just makes up its own Jason mythology as it goes along, like they pretty much all do. However, I still enjoy it as a movie more than all the rest of the films on this list.

Fun Fact: The black chick was one of the singers in Destiny’s Child (that defunct band Beyoncé started in.)

Friday the 13th 8

If I was being completely honest, remove Freddy vs. Jason and this movie could go up a notch on the list. Chronologically this is where the franchise hit rock bottom. Everything after this is just garbage.

This movie has few redeeming qualities for me. I enjoy the early boat stuff, the parts most people tend to despise, but I completely hate all the physic dream stuff. This one felt like it was trying to appeal more to the Freddy fans and it didn’t work. At least not for me.

Fun Fact: Jason actually takes his hockey mask off voluntarily for a scare.

Jason X

I like this movie more than most. I don’t think it’s a bad movie. I do think it is a bad Jason movie so ranking it among the others in the franchise it tends to fall pretty far down the list.

Fun Fact: This was another in a long line of horror movies moving to space for some reason. Others were Leprechaun and Hellraiser.

Friday the 13th 7

I hate this movie. It takes the psychic stuff too far. It has a few decent kills and it expands the mythology, I guess, but it messes up the time line and is just plain boring to watch.

Fun Fact: This was the second time a corpse jumped out at the end to drag someone into the water.

Jason Goes to Hell

This was one of the few I did see when I was a kid. In fact it was the only one I watched when it was a new release. I didn’t like it at all. The body switching stuff was too much. Jason didn’t look like the familiar character at all and since it as the first one I watched all the way through it soured my opinion of the franchise for several years.

Fun Fact: There aren’t any, New Line cinema bought the franchise and it should have ended here. I think they only made Jason X just to hold people over until they could get Freddy vs. Jason off the ground.

And that’s the list. Considering I haven’t even seen the remake yet I can’t rank it. Considering how my views tend to differ from the mainstream I am not sure what I will ultimately think of it. I do own the DVD, I just have never gotten around to actually watching it.

 

The Dark Web podcast episode 3- (SH*THOLE EPISODE) Nintendo Labo, R-rated horror movies on the decline?

https://thespiderslair.podbean.com/e/the-dark-web-podcast-episode-3-shthole-episode-nintendo-labo-r-rated-horror-movies-on-the-decline/

This R-Rated examination of the decline of hard-r rated horror movies. Also a look at how Donald Trump has made it okay to say shithole in the news now. A brief but energetic rant about the Nintendo Labo crap coming from Nintendo, and a look at the passing of the world-famous singer of the Irish band, The Cranberries. It’s a shorter episode packed with lots of thoughts in rapid succession. Oh I also talked about the recent Cracked video layoffs.

The Spiders Lair Ranks- Freddy vs. Jason franchise: part one the Freddy movies

This has been a long time coming. It’s no secret I like to make lists, who doesn’t lists are fun. I also thoroughly enjoy the slasher movie genre. My favorites are A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. The two franchises clashed in 2003 with the blockbuster spectacular “Freddy vs. Jason.” This is a list ranking the entire franchise as if it were one franchise, from best to worst. This is purely based on the opinion of The Spiders Lair, so I hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Freddy

A Nightmare on Elm Street

By pretty much all accounts the original Elm Street film is by far the best in the series. It really wasn’t my first exposure to the series, that honor belongs to The Dream Child, but it was easy to see why it’s been regarded as the best once I did get to see it.

For those that don’t know the movie is about a child murderer who is turned into a demon who can enter the dreams of teenagers and if he kills you in the dream you die for real. The premise sounds silly but it’s actually a very well done film.

Fun fact, this was Johnny Depp’s first film appearance.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3

This was the second of the Elm Street films I got to see and pretty much became my favorite for the longest time. There was a time when I might be inclined to say this was the best in the franchise with the original either a tie or a close second. As time has gone on I have learned to appreciate the original more and more. I still enjoy this movie too, but I do think the first one is slightly better mostly for being original.

The movie takes place a few years after the previous two. It appears as though Freddy is spreading through Springwood like a plague with teenagers dropping like flies. The main story focuses on a group of kids, the “last of the Elm Street teenagers” that Freddy is trying to kill off. The kids are all institutionalized trying to survive their nightmares. This is one of the better movies in the franchise and easily the best of the sequels.

Fun fact: Laurence Fisburne of the Matrix fame makes an appearance in this movie.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4

I remember the first time I watched this movie. I had already seen Part 5 and part 3 but none of the other movies at this point. I was flipping through the channels and we had one of those free preview weekends of the premium movie channels. I had never seen it before but when it started up I was so excited to be watching another one of the Elm Street films. By the time I got to the end of this film I was beyond hooked, I was borderline obsessed.

The movie takes place after the events of Dream Warriors. Freddy comes back to life in one of the better scenes in the franchise. The movie, is not as good as the one that came before, but it’s still much better than many of those that came after.

Fun Fact: This movie features some awesome 80’s MTV references.

Freddy vs. Jason

I consider this the last of the true Elm Street movies. Although it’s not a true Freddy movie in the strictest sense, at least it’s still “in universe” and that means a lot more to me than how scary it was or wasn’t for that matter.

The movie pretty much ignores most of the sequels. The movie gets into the backstory of the character a little bit, which I enjoy, and of course pits Freddy against everyone’s favorite hockey masked slasher killer.

Fun Fact: This movie was supposed to feature Pinhead from Hellraiser but they couldn’t get the rights.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5

A part of me wants to always pick this one as the special place it holds as the very first Nightmare on Elm Street movie I ever watched. The first time I saw it I had no idea what the mythology was or backstory I just jumped right in and was hooked right away.

The movie follows the survivors of the previous films, as they often do, trying to get on with their lives. As is also often the case, the teens in this movie must all be new transfers who had no knowledge of their peers killed in the last movie, because they all take quite a bit of convincing Freddy is thing, let alone them not even knowing about the legend? When I as a kid I never pieced that together but today it’s a glaring flaw in the film series. At least with the Friday the 13th films the teens are all aware of Camp Blood. They just ignore it to get their freak on.

Fun Fact: This movie features a comic book “Super Freddy” sequence that I thought was cool as a kid.

Bonus Fun Fact: The VHS release of this movie featured a “rapping” Freddy music video.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 6

I am sure there are going to be those out here who call me every name in the book for ranking this movie higher than dead last. For me, personally, this is not the worst movie in the series. Sure, it’s over the top with the comedy, not that scary and the 3D is terrible. However it actually gets a few things right that make it a notch above the bottom to, for me at least. First, Alice Friggin Copper plays Freddy’s step-father. The trip into Freddy’s mind revealing scenes from his past is by far the best part of the movie. The Looney Tunes version of Freddy isn’t as appealing as the MTV version of Freddy but I still enjoy this movie.

This movie takes place in the distant future where Freddy is down to his last teenager. He needs to send the kid out into the world to bring him some “fresh meat” which he does of course. The movie has some flaws but it was a lot of fun the first time around and I still get emotional when the credits roll with all those scenes from the previous movies taking me back in time.

Fun Fact: This movie makes a GREAT post-Wizard reference to The Power Glove.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2

I was tempted to rank this dead last, as it is my least favorite of the original franchise. However, I cannot stand how the New Nightmare ignores the previous movies mythology. That alone kills it for me. I never cared how “scary” it was or how “original” it supposedly was, all I cared about was how it was just breaking the rules and dismissing all those movies I fell in love with. Well, instead of spending all my time

The movie itself isn’t terrible, just dull, slow paced and less scary than most. It does help set up part 3 which is more than enough for me. It does break a lot of the rules, but can you blame it, being the first sequel there rules weren’t quite well established yet.

Fun Fact: This movie is treated more like a haunted house film than a free roaming dream demon the of the later movies. It’s also the first time the house becomes a set piece, later becoming a staple of the franchise.

Wes Cravens New Nightmare

I dislike this movie. I won’t get too much into why I just felt it disrespected the movies I enjoyed. I know some people like this movie and make outrageous claims like it’s one of the best or even the best by some accounts. I just don’t get it.

Fun Fact: This movie reunites stars from the original.

Check back for part 2: The Jason films.